Pubdate: Thu, 16 Mar 2017
Source: Penticton Herald (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Author: Joe Fries
Page: A3


Hand-delivered note says police 'will consider taking action' if the
shops continue 'to engage in illegal business practices'

Threat letters from the Mounties to three marijuana dispensaries in
Penticton have had the desired effect, with one shop already shuttered
and the owner of another saying his will close soon, too.

The letters, signed by Penticton RCMP acting commander Staff-Sgt.
Kirsten Marshall, outline Health Canada regulations for the sale of
medical marijuana and note police "will consider taking action" if the
shops continue "to engage in illegal business practices."

Such action could include arrests, searches and seizures.

It's unclear what prompted Mounties to act now, since at least one of
the shops has been running for nearly two years, while city council
went through an extensive process in December to create special
temporary-use permits for the other two shops ahead of planned federal
decriminalization of marijuana.

"The RCMP is responsible for enforcing Canadian laws, as they stand
today. Our communities expect that we will take enforcement action to
meet this responsibility, and do so in an impartial and professional
manner," Marshall said in a statement Wednesday.

"The RCMP encourages local businesses to conduct their operations
within the current scope of local, provincial and federal laws.
Business operators who choose to conduct their operations outside of
these laws may be investigated."

Marshall said there is "no timeline for enforcement, if it will occur
at all."

Herbal Green Apothecary owner Jukka Laurio said his letter was
hand-delivered earlier this week by plainclothes officers with little
in the way of an explanation.

"They just indicated that things have changed and it's time to change
things," said Laurio.

He believes the federal government has ordered the RCMP to crack down
on dispensaries to help clear the slate ahead of decriminalization.

Laurio, whose shop is the only one of the three without a
temporary-use permit, said he now plans to wind down his operation by
the end of the month.

"Three years ago, the original plan was to establish a licensed
marijuana production facility, and I haven't been able to do it
because this dispensary has been all-encompassing," he said.

The letter also contributed to his decision to close up shop, Laurio
said, because he doesn't have the resources to take on the federal

Green Essence Dispensary, which also got a letter, closed Wednesday.
Calls to the shop weren't answered.

The other letter recipient, Okanagan Cannaboid Therapy, remains open.
A man who answered the phone there Wednesday declined comment.

People can still get medical marijuana through official channels,
although city council heard getting a doctor's permission is
difficult, and it therefore moved to permit the dispensaries, making
Penticton the first Okanagan municipality to do so.

Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said he was caught off-guard by the
Mounties' letters.

"Marijuana dispensaries have been in the spotlight not only in
Penticton but elsewhere, and to date the federal government haven't
been helpful, plus the RCMP have not provided enforcement," Jakubeit
said in a statement, noting that's another reason the city issued the
two temporary-use permits.

"This enforcement letter would have been nice to see nine months ago.
Now I believe there are other issues, such as property crime and
targeting prolific offenders, that the RCMP need to focus their
resources on."
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